Reality Check

AP results are in and they are what you might call sobering.

I’ll preface that word choice by also stating that the scores were by no means terrible, but they didn’t meet my or my colleagues expectations for The Studio PBL classroom. Like a business strives to improve profits, we were hoping to make strides forward in our AP scores (our bottom line if you will) proceeding our inaugural year. Alas, we just didn’t quite make those strides; however, we did see one particular area of improvement in the scores that we certainly take heart about; I’ll speak more to that shortly.

AP (advanced placement) is a different animal than anything else in our high schools. Controlled by the College Board (the developers of the SAT and PSAT), AP courses and tests are meant to be much tougher classes and tests than what most see in our first few years of college. The tests that are developed all have different protocols for grading and recently, several tests have been revamped or changed significantly including the AP World History exam. Not to make excuses, but no matter the classroom context, these tests are extremely difficult to prepare for whether teacher or student. With each new year of The Studio, we continue to draw closer to what we believe are solutions to see more success in our students’ AP exams. The truth is we are almost the only ones implementing not only clearly defined standards in a PBL classroom, but AP course work and standards as well. It is exciting to be on the forefront of something so game changing; however, the reality still remains that we are still balancing how our classroom meets the needs of both a 21st century learner and a testing system that still needs great amounts of testing practice to be successful.

What we are working on going into this new school year is a more regimented time for students to practice both multiple choice and writing tasks involved in the tests. The idea is to give more context to the test, while also still striving for great, relevant projects. The goal is not to simply give students test practice, but to also evaluate the quality of writing responses and giving feedback to the student, which in turn should give greater context to the point of a correct answer or response. It will be a tough road to hoe this year, but it is essential to us seeing our AP exams reflect the learning happening the classroom. (Bear in mind that our state test scores as well as county are still top notch across the PBL curriculum!) If we manage to develop the right balancing act, then The Studio will take the next step forward in its quest to help innovate the current public school model.

So what did see happen this year? Our tenth graders partaking of the AP World History exam this year didn’t fair as well as we had hoped. The average score was below anticipated, but we did see students who had not been successful the previous year increase their score and in some cases pass the exam. The best news came with the ninth grade group who took the AP Human Geography exam. Half the class (mostly honors and on-level students) passed the exam! This was a great improvement from last years ninth grade group. We’re taking the good with the bad and figuring out how we can grow and improve. Only time will tell, but we’re focused and ready to march forward towards new goals. With school starting in just a week and half, the third year of the PBL experience is about to begin!

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